Every time your dog runs, leaps, and gets through obstacles, it’s not only their muscles that benefit — the best exercises for dogs help build their brain power, too.
Here’s a dog trainer perspective: the best exercises for dogs rank high in the top needs that dog owners should give to their pets. I have witnessed dogs become sharper and quicker in picking up instructions, and more agile in navigating obstacles.
In this blog, I’d like you to understand that dog exercise ticks off two goals with just one activity — a healthier body for your dog AND a smarter, quicker brain.
All the more reason to take your dogs outdoors to enjoy even just a few minutes of walking, running, playing in the park, and even doing some agility training.
If you want to know more how exercise directly affects your dog’s brain development, dive in. Or shall we say… leap in!
- Exercise does not only benefit your dog’s body — it’s a powerful tool in training dogs to be quicker, sharper, smarter.
- Breed, age, build, and health conditions affect the type of exercise your dog can do.
- When dogs don’t get an adequate amount of exercise, their mental health is affected, too.
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Table of Contents:
- Best Exercises for Dogs: How Outdoor Activities Made My Dogs Happier and Smarter
- How Movement and Dog Exercises Benefit Dogs’ Brains
- What Are the Best Exercises for Dogs?
- What Are Recommended Exercises for Dogs That Benefit Their Brain?
- Agility Training and Obedience Training: Best Brain Training Exercises for Dogs
- Why Variety is Important in Dog Exercises
- Signs to Look Out for When Doing Dog Exercises
- Which Dog Breeds Need the Most Exercise?
- How Often Should Dogs Exercise?
- Best Exercises for Dogs You Can Do Indoors
- Conclusion: Your Pet Deserves a Routine That Includes the Best Exercises for Dogs
Best Exercises for Dogs: How Outdoor Activities Made My Dogs Happier and Smarter
Dogs love walking.
In fact, walking is a natural need for them. Even my dogs crave the adventures we get when we exercise outside our home.
I talk about this topic extensively (plus some actual footage of my dogs basking in the sun and enjoying their time outdoors) in the video below so don’t forget to check it out.
The best dog exercises have not only bonded my dogs in such a strong way. A consistent walking routine with my dogs allowed me to see their development when it comes to understanding my commands, handling stress and anxiety, and bonding with other dogs.
How Movement and the Best Dog Exercises Benefit Dogs’ Brains
As a dog trainer, I can tell you with absolute certainty that the best exercises for dogs are incredibly important for a dog's mental and physical health.
I have worked with dog owners who saw how exercise changed the way their dogs deal with anxiety, socialization, and lack of stamina. Exercise can do wonders for dogs!
With that being said, we can also say that not having an adequate amount of exercise can bring negative effects in the long run.
Let’s talk more about this truth below.
What Does Lack of Exercise Do to Dogs?
Dogs are natural athletes and need to burn off their excess energy through physical activity. Without enough exercise, they can become bored, anxious, and even destructive.
In fact, research has shown that lack of exercise can lead to a variety of behavioral problems in dogs, such as aggression, hyperactivity, and anxiety.
Exercise has been shown to have a positive effect on the development and function of the brain in dogs, which can lead to increased intelligence and cognitive abilities.
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What Happens to Your Dog’s Brain When They Exercise
From increased blood flow to the brain to the release of "feel-good" hormones, there are numerous ways that exercise can benefit your dog's mental and physical health, and even their relationship with you.
#1: Best Exercises for Dogs Improve Your Dog’s Mood
When a dog exercises, their brain releases a variety of chemicals, including endorphins and dopamine, which can improve mood and cognitive function.
Additionally, physical activity has been shown to increase blood flow to the brain, which can improve memory and learning.
#2: Your Dog Becomes a Better Problem Solver
Studies have also shown that dogs who engage in regular exercise are better able to handle stress, and have improved problem-solving abilities. This is likely because exercise helps to reduce anxiety and promotes a sense of well-being.
Certain types of exercise, such as agility training, can help to develop a dog's problem-solving skills and improve their ability to make quick decisions. This can translate to better performance in other areas of their life, such as obedience training or even just everyday interactions with their human family.
So, not only does exercise benefit a dog's physical health, but it can also have a positive impact on their cognitive abilities and intelligence.
By incorporating regular exercise into your dog's routine, you can help to promote a healthy, happy, and intelligent brain.
#3: Your Dog Becomes Less Prone to Aggression and Destructive Behavior
Dogs who receive regular exercise and mental stimulation are also more likely to exhibit good behavior and be less prone to destructive behaviors, such as chewing, digging, or excessive barking.
Exercise and mental stimulation can help dogs to release pent-up energy and boredom, which can contribute to unwanted behaviors.
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#4: They Learn to Trust YOU Better
Exercise can be a great way to bond with your dog because it provides an opportunity for you to spend quality time together while engaging in a shared activity.
When you exercise with your dog, you are creating a positive association with physical activity, which can help to promote a deep love for movement, exercise, and the adventures of the outdoors.
What Are the Best Exercises for Dogs?
The options are endless, and must I add, mostly free!
There’s no inferior exercise as each one comes with tons of perks. However, there are exercises that are better for YOUR dog’s stamina, health condition, and breed.
Here are some factors to consider when picking an exercise routine for your pet.
How to Tell If An Exercise is Right for Your Dog
Factor #1: Breed
Different dog breeds have different exercise requirements. High-energy breeds, such as Border Collies or Australian Shepherds, may require more intense exercise than smaller breeds, like Chihuahuas.
Factor #2: Age and Health
Puppies and senior dogs may have different exercise needs compared to adult dogs. Additionally, dogs with health issues, such as arthritis or heart problems, may require low-impact exercises.
Factor #3: Personality
Some dogs are naturally more energetic and playful, while others are more laid-back. Choose an exercise that suits your dog's personality to ensure they enjoy it and stay motivated.
Factor #4: Weather
Extreme weather conditions, such as extreme heat or cold, can affect your dog's ability to exercise. Adjust the intensity and duration of exercise to accommodate the weather conditions.
Factor #5: Supervision
Always supervise your dog during exercise to ensure their safety. This is especially important when introducing new exercises or activities.
Factor #6: Mix it Up
Variety is important for your dog's mental stimulation and physical health so try mixing up your dog's exercise routine to prevent boredom and keep them motivated.
Factor #7: Enjoyment
Choose an exercise that both you and your dog enjoy to ensure it becomes a fun bonding experience for you both.
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What Are Recommended Dog Exercises That Help Their Brain?
From walking to indoor hide and seek, your opportunities to move with your pet is endless. The list of the best exercises for dogs you will find below are easy, free, powerful in enriching their brains.
Regular walking helps keep your dog physically fit, burns off excess energy, and maintains a healthy weight, reducing the risk of injury.
It also provides mental stimulation by allowing your dog to explore new sights, sounds, and smells, reducing boredom and preventing destructive behavior.
Walking is an excellent opportunity for your dog to socialize and become more comfortable in social situations, reducing aggression towards other dogs or people.
Walking with your dog also strengthens the bond between you both, providing quality one-on-one time that builds trust.
Hide and Seek
The hide and seek game for dogs can help dogs develop their sense of smell while also teaching them to rely on their owners.
Hide a favorite toy or treat and encourage your dog to find it. Start with easy hiding spots and gradually increase the difficulty.
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Tug of War
This game is great for building trust and promoting exercise. Choose a sturdy rope toy and engage in a gentle game of tug with your dog. Be sure to let your dog win occasionally to keep them motivated.
These toys challenge your dog's problem-solving skills and keep them mentally stimulated. Fill a puzzle toy with treats and encourage your dog to figure out how to get them out.
This type of training involves obstacles and can help your dog develop coordination and agility. Set up an obstacle course in your backyard or attend a training class to learn more.
Teaching your dog basic commands like sit, stay, and come can help you communicate more effectively and build a stronger bond.
If obedience training is something you’d like to try with your dog, we have a course that covers all of the basic and advanced command training you’ll ever need. Check out The Online Dog Trainer programs here.
Agility Training and Obedience Training: Best Brain Training Exercises for Dogs
Agility training is such an exciting activity for dogs because this great workout will improve their physical fitness and coordination.
Not only that, but agility training also provides lots of mental stimulation, helping to prevent boredom and anxiety.
And when it comes to behavior training, there's no better way to bond with your furry friend! You'll teach them to respond to commands and behave appropriately in all sorts of situations, making your relationship even stronger.
From basic commands like sit and stay to more advanced training to address behavioral issues, like aggression or separation anxiety, behavior training is an investment in your dog's obedience and overall happiness.
Why Variety is Important When Giving the Best Exercises for Dogs
Dogs are intelligent creatures that thrive on mental stimulation, and regular exercise alone may not provide enough of a challenge to keep their brains engaged.
Providing variety in your dog's exercise routine can help to keep them mentally stimulated and engaged, which can lead to a happier, healthier pet.
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One way to add variety to your dog's exercise routine is to mix up the activities you do together.
Instead of just going for a walk every day, consider taking your dog on a hike, visiting a dog park, or trying out a new activity like agility training or flyball.
These activities provide a new challenge for your dog's brain and can help to stimulate their problem-solving abilities.
Another way to add variety to your dog's exercise routine is to use different types of toys or equipment.
For example, you could use a frisbee or ball for a game of fetch one day, and then switch to a puzzle toy or treat dispenser the next. These toys provide a mental challenge for your dog and can help to keep their brain engaged and stimulated.
It's important to note that adding variety to your dog's exercise routine doesn't mean you have to exhaust them with constant activity. Instead, it's about providing a new challenge or experience that engages their brain and keeps them mentally stimulated.
Signs to Look Out for When Doing Dog Exercises
Exercise is crucial for your pet's physical and mental well-being, but overdoing it can be dangerous and can lead to injuries.
Here are some signs and cues that I use to see if my dogs are still up for another walk around the park, or if they need to finally call it a day.
Cue #1: Watch for Signs of Fatigue
Just like people, dogs can get tired from exercise.
Signs that your dog may be getting fatigued include heavy panting, slowing down, or even lying down during walks or playtime. If you notice any of these signs, it's time to take a break and let your dog rest.
Cue #2: Be mindful of Temperature
Dogs are more sensitive to heat than humans, so it's important to be mindful of the temperature when exercising them.
If it's hot outside, consider exercising your dog during the cooler parts of the day, such as early morning or late evening. And always bring water and offer it frequently during exercise to prevent dehydration.
Cue #3: Keep an Eye on Their Joints
Certain breeds of dogs, particularly larger breeds, are prone to joint problems such as hip dysplasia or arthritis. Over-exercising can exacerbate these conditions and cause pain and discomfort for your dog.
If you notice that your dog is having trouble with mobility or seems stiff after exercise, it may be time to visit the vet for a check-up.
Cue #4: Listen to Your Dog
Ultimately, the best way to know if your dog has had enough exercise is to pay attention to their cues.
Some dogs will let you know when they're done by slowing down or even walking away from you. Others may be more energetic and need to be monitored more closely.
By paying attention to your dog's body language and energy levels, you can ensure that they're getting enough exercise without overdoing it.
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Which Dog Breeds Need More Exercise?
Here are some dog breeds that require regular exercise from their owners to maintain their physical and mental health:
Breed #1: Border Collie
These intelligent and energetic dogs are bred for work and require plenty of exercise to stay happy and healthy. So without regular physical and mental stimulation, they can become bored and destructive.
Breed #2: Labrador Retriever
These friendly and loyal dogs are known for their love of exercise and play but without enough physical activity, they can become overweight and develop health problems.
Breed #3: Jack Russell Terrier
These small but mighty dogs are full of energy and require plenty of exercise to prevent destructive behaviors. They excel at agility and other types of training that provide mental stimulation.
Breed #4: Siberian Husky
These beautiful dogs were bred for sledding and require lots of exercise to stay happy and healthy. Because they need frequent exercise, they can become destructive and even escape from their homes when not given enough.
Breed #5: Australian Shepherd
These intelligent and active dogs require lots of exercise and mental stimulation to prevent boredom and anxiety.
They excel at agility and other types of training that provide physical and mental challenges.
These breeds (and many others!) require regular exercise and mental stimulation to stay happy and healthy. So, as a responsible dog owner, it's important to provide your furry friend with plenty of opportunities for exercise and play.
How Often Should Dogs Exercise?
When it comes to exercise, the frequency and duration of your dog's workouts will depend on several factors, including their breed, age, and overall health.
Because each breed is different, I would recommend that most dogs should aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise per day. This can include a brisk walk, a game of fetch, or other types of physical activity.
However, some breeds, such as Border Collies and Siberian Huskies, may require much more exercise to stay happy, healthy, and active.
It's also important to remember that exercise doesn't just mean physical activity. Mental stimulation is also important for dogs, and can include activities such as training, puzzle toys, and interactive games.
Ultimately, the key is to find a routine that works for you and your pet. Consistency is key, and it's important to prioritize your dog's physical and mental health by making sure they get enough exercise and stimulation.
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If you're unsure about how much exercise your dog needs or what types of activities are best for them, don't hesitate to consult with a veterinarian or professional dog trainer. We’re very much willing to help!
Best Exercises for Dogs You Can Do Indoors
When it’s pouring outdoors, I tell dog owners to save the best dog exercise routines at home. The good news is that there are plenty of best exercises for dogs that you can do in the comfort of your own home.
Indoor Exercise #1: Indoor Fetch
If the weather isn't great outside, you can still play fetch with your dog indoors. Choose a soft, lightweight ball or toy and make sure you have enough space for your pup to run around without knocking anything over.
Indoor Exercise #2: Tug of War
A good old-fashioned game of tug of war can be a great way to bond with your dog and get their heart rate up. Just be sure to use a tug toy that's specifically designed for dogs, and avoid pulling too hard or tugging too aggressively.
Indoor Exercise #3: Stair Workouts
If you have stairs in your home, you can use them to give your dog a workout. Try having your pup run up and down the stairs a few times, or hide treats on different steps to encourage them to explore and climb.
Indoor Exercise #4: Training Sessions
Teaching your dog new tricks or reinforcing basic commands can be a great way to provide mental stimulation and exercise at the same time. You can use treats or toys as rewards, and focus on one or two commands per session.
Indoor Exercise #5: Interactive Toys
Puzzle toys and treat-dispensing toys can be a great way to keep your dog entertained and mentally engaged. There are plenty of options available, from simple treat balls to more complex puzzle feeders.
Conclusion: Your Pet Deserves a Routine That Includes the Best Exercises for Dogs
If your dog already has a routine that includes dog exercises they both love and enjoy, I’m cheering you on! You’re doing a great job.
If you’re about to start an exercise routine for your furbaby, I’d like to tell you that you’re on the right track.
Dogs deserve to feel healthier, happier, and more active, and all these benefits come with exercise!
So don’t forget to make your dogs move every single day.
After all, exercise gives us what we want for our dogs for free: a healthy body, a stronger brain, and a happier heart.
~ Doggy Dan 😄
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